If you arrive by sea from Tortola, you’ll sail by Richard Branson’s Necker Island. Then, you’ll drift on to Eustatia, the private idyll owned by Larry Page, the billionaire founder of Google. If you have deep enough pockets, you can stay at both at certain times of the year, but our advice is not to drop anchor until you reach the best-kept secret of the British Virgin Islands. Found on the north-eastern tip of Virgin Gorda, one of the largest islands in the region’s North Sound, is Oil Nut Bay – the latest addition to the jetsetter’s paradise that is the BVIs.
The resort – tucked away in the hills and ridges of the island’s end-point – is spread across 300 acres and features a remarkable collection of bespoke, design-led villas – as well as three glamourous suites – available to holidaymakers and buyers alike. Spread across eight different ‘neighbourhoods’ – from beachside to ridge – the principal USP is privacy and seclusion, yet with a host of amenities and top-end services for guests to tap into. Built to spec, the homes feature unique architectural features and luxury touches according to each of the owners’ desires, yet with one thing in common: sweeping views across the Caribbean Sea.
The beach-side – and delightfully named – Jewel Box, for instance, has a wrap-around infinity pool, chic interiors, four bedrooms and an impressive Great Room at its core. Meanwhile, Water’s Edge, perched high on the north side of the resort in the Ridge neighbourhood, is slick and modern. It also has an enticing infinity pool with glass walls so that you get the sensation that you can swim beyond its walls and drop into the turquoise sea below. Broad terraces, with deep sofas and glam day beds, mean it’s tempting to stay put all day. Of course, it’s equally seductive at night, becoming the ideal place to watch the sun say goodbye for the day. Inside, décor is contemporary with natural stone, glass walls, and tactile details. There is an elegant living room and kitchen with state-of-the-art amenities, and the master bedroom comes complete with an open-air shower and soaking tub.
For urban-chic appeal, book one of the three Cliff Suites for a sumptuously stylish space. These are carved into the rocky south-east coast and come with their own pools. The standout is the Cliff Penthouse with glamourous interiors designed by Fendi Casa – expect black croc lined bathrooms, white leather furniture and Murano glass chandeliers for an Italian aesthetic beautifully juxtaposed against the lure of a Caribbean setting.
From the ocean, the resort is practically hidden, having been designed to merge into the landscape. You can also arrive by helicopter – which, taking you over its rooftops, raises the glamour stakes even more. Of course, the fact that Oil Nut Bay is gloriously under-the-radar is the appeal – with prices from around $5m rising to $25m and upwards (and a rate of $750 a night for rental) the resort is all about attracting a high-net-worth buyer and holidaymaker – so there is a focus on offering privacy as well as premium service.
The premise of Oil Nut Bay was conjured up by renowned American developer David V. Johnson, most famous for the landmark $1 billion Bay Harbor waterside community, on the shores of Lake Michigan, not to mention 42 other high-end projects. After touring round the world in search of the ideal destination for his next project – but crucially also to find the place for his ‘forever home’ – he settled on the BVIs due to its economic and political stability, safety and stunning beauty.
With environmental integrity and architectural excellence at its core, the project is still in its early days. There are 17 villas completed – but he plans to build around 67 in the next 10 years. While it has already attracted a shortlist of the world’s leading CEOs and wealthy influencers, as well as Johnson himself, who resides here for most of the year, this is the sort of place that whispers rather than shouts its credentials. “There’s no doubt, that we appeal to the world’s most successful people,” Johnson says, and you suspect he may even handpick the golden few who buy here. “It is becoming a growing hub of interesting people,” he answers with a non-committal smile, when asked the question.
“Living here is all about community and neighbourhood,” he emphasises. “We want people to discover us but, most importantly, we want them to fall in love with the British Virgin Islands. What happens then is that they become interested in preserving the local environment and keeping the character of the BVIs. After all, that’s what has bought them here in the first place.”
Consequently, there’s a serious ‘environmental excellence’ policy at play with solar power, water management and low-density planning at the top of the resort’s agenda. Many properties have green roofing technology and 50% of the land has been designated as open space, with nature trails and land preserves.
Talking of which, an early morning trek to Pajaros Point is a highlight and shows you a more rugged side to the island. A variety of trails take you through arid hills covered with towering Turks Head cactuses and pretty frangipani flowers – bringing you to the highest and most north-easterly point of Virgin Gorda and its dramatic ocean views.
Back down next to the alluring ocean – which shimmers with its brilliant azure tones – is The Beach Club. This is the beating heart of the resort with its al fresco restaurant, three pools and access to all the sports on offer to guests. From tennis to ladder-golf, sailing to kayaking, the list of activities on offer seems endless. In homage to America’s fastest growing sport, there’s even a pickleball court, not to mention island visits, sailing and fishing on tap. “We’re focusing on multi-generational appeal,” says Johnson, so there’s something for everyone with a changing, daily calendar of events. Three recent examples include complimentary sailing lessons, rum tasting and a chance to meet the five Paso Fino rescue horses which live on pastures on the resort. The Horse Program – which rescues mainly ex-race horses from Latin America – is the passion of Pamela Johnson, David’s wife.
Meanwhile, fresh produce is the ethos at the restaurant – and there are also plans afoot for a community organic garden to better enable a field-to-fork approach. Red snapper, mahi mahi and wahoo are all locally caught – and, according to chef Leonard Sorce’s inventive Caribbean-Euro approach – are sublimely cooked. Snapper is served with wild mushroom ravioli, for instance. There’s a lobster fondue with shrimp chips and black beans and wahoo served with coconut milk broth, seaweed salad and black rice. In short, it’s the sort of menu you could return to ten times and still find something new and inspiring to eat.
An ideal day here starts off with sunrise yoga or a hike in the hills. After coconut French toast and cappuccino, you’d hop over to a neighbouring island – stopping off for a snorkel along the way (these are pristine seas). Cooper Island is perfect for a spot of lunch (conch fritters are a must). Later that afternoon, book into Oil Nut Bay’s cliff-side spa for an Organic Pharmacy facial – and fall in love with the heavenly views you’ll find there. Later, take the hotel’s ferry to Saba Rock – for a barefoot dinner to a reggae beat. This is the Caribbean, but not as you know it.
Carrier (0161 492 1354, carrier.co.uk) offers seven nights from £3,965 per person based on two adults sharing a one-bedroom Cliff Suite on a room only basis, including return flights from London Gatwick with British Airways, and private transfers. (Price based on departures 08 Nov 17)
This article is also published on The Arbuturian